At late, I’ve been sort of a drifter in the so-called local music “scene”, partly because having to go to all the gigs and listening to the same people and the same songs over and over can eventually grow tiring, (not to mention being coaxed in to yet another drinking session, which I have already outgrown) even though it’s totally hip to support the local music scene. A part of me still thinks that showing up to these things is helpful in mobilizing gigs, and as a result you’ve got a healthy music sub/culture. (Note: In fact, this was exactly what Paolo Castillo and the early Kaibans have envisioned. Making music gigs a habit in order for musicians to habitually create and play music.)
Years later I realized that in Davao, the music culture has met some difficulty in departing from the “gig” machinery. On one hand, you have got to admire how the locals have finally warmed up to the idea of recording their original music, also home recording at that. However, recording became an alibi to go out and support yet another gig. I know I’ll divide the discussion on this but I daresay that music distribution hasn’t outgrown selling CDs to friends (even giving them away for free – as alternative interpretations of “indie” permit). And so it comes as no surprise that you have a handful of very talented musicians and even music producers that have a day job. Unless you’re the likes of Noel Cabangon, Gauss Obenza, Bayang Barrios, Popong Landero…you know…the MTS people.
In a “scene” where music is appreciated but not necessarily “sold” (not to be confused with “sold out” as that requires a more complex qualification), being a musician is just not a career option around these parts. And so Davao has made it possible to have a music scene without a music industry. Because the latter for me is manifested by the proliferation of artists who have records people go out of their way to buy in order to listen to. When artists have a listener-ship with demand high enough to “inspire” more music, then tautologically, you’ve got yourself a market. But unlike this ideal scenario you notice that in Mindanao, the artist is lax on the business side of music. Which is fine but it’s symptomatic of obscurantism and a low appreciation of independent music. Independent music is a musical process or genre that is, more often than not, commercially relaxed or devoid of formulaic musicality that the only way to give it artistic justice is for it to be appreciated by as wide an audience as possible.
This is the predominant trend in Mindanao. We could make an exception of this period in time in Cagayan de Oro, when they were at their most abundant musical days thanks to the emergence of music powerhouses from the city, like Nuncyspungen. Before even knowing that the band was from CDO, I was able to acquire a copy of their music off Manila racks. It’s just an example of the potential for artists to enjoy wider circulation than most Mindanaoans. Although in this case, they had a little help coming from the “South” music industry, which is actually Cebu (it’s strange that they call it South when Mindanao is a lot more…southern). But I digress.
Digression #2: Wait a minute, what about Myxtreme? Or Sidecrash? Aren’t they widely proliferated? Well, I’m only talking about Indie here, get with the program.
Digression #3: What’s Indie by the way? Let’s keep these ideas at bay for now.
I categorically exclude mainstream artists from Mindanao who’ve been absorbed by “big” recording companies because there’s really no point in calling them independent. And recording companies tend to hegemonize sound such that they become commercial and formulaic – creative impositions that Indie culture resists. I’d like to think that aside from independence from companies, it can also be said that it’s a culture that resist creative conformity.
And so the point of this article is: Yes, Davao has an existing independent music culture but with some internal issues that need to be addressed in order to grow. Your thoughts?